Data – The Great Untapped Resource?

Published in Member Communities on December 26, 2018

By Ryan Ball, Director, VGM Market Data

Ryan BallThe HME community has faced many challenges over the past few years, leaving providers to assess all available options to generate more business and find new revenue streams. HMEs must focus on creating a strong, efficient marketing operation to communicate with referral sources and directly to patients.

You may not realize it, but there is a potential revenue stream already at your fingertips: data. Specifically, data in your electronic medical records (EMR) system – patient data and data about physicians already referring patients to you.

Patient Data

Medicare supplier standards governing the use of patient data for marketing efforts have caused many HMEs not to use it out of confusion or fear of violating supplier standards.

DMEPOS suppliers are prohibited from making unsolicited contact with a Medicare beneficiary unless one of the following exceptions has been met:

  1. The beneficiary has given written permission to the supplier to contact them about an item.
  2. The supplier has previously provided a Medicare-covered item and is contacting them about that item.
  3. The supplier has, within the last 15 months, provided at least one Medicare-covered item to the beneficiary.

However, if used wisely and within Medicare guidelines, patient data can be used effectively.

Collecting Patient Contact Information

To adequately and efficiently communicate with their patient population, HMEs must first collect during the onboarding process all relevant patient contact data, including home and/or cell phone number, home address, email address, social networking, etc. Understanding how a patient wants to be contacted will improve your contact rate effectiveness. For example, younger patients typically want a text message or email, while seniors gravitate toward a phone call or visit.

Be Relevant to Your Patients

Most HMEs already have an existing database of patients and capture key patient information during the intake process, so what’s the next step? What products and strategies are most effective?

As with all marketing, you must find a way to be relevant to your patients. Data can help target different products to patients based on demographics and disease state. In addition to understanding the challenges facing the patient based on the HME equipment you provide, timing is also important. A couple good examples of relevance and timeliness can be found during the winter holiday season. As year-end approaches, many patients have health savings account balances that must be used for medical expenses.

  • If you provide a patient with a CPAP, consider messaging “Don’t let your flex dollars go to waste. Call today for holiday deals on a CPAP cleaning machine and pillows.”
  • An in-home hospital bed patient can be offered savings on mattresses and sheets, as well as a free in-home consultation for home modification services.

You should use all forms of communication when contacting current patients for health-related items. For example, send a postcard in the mail or a resupply box, and time a phone call and email to go out in conjunction with the mailing. There are many resources that will preschedule electronic communications to help your team deliver consistent messaging and integrate across social networking platforms. Consider directing patients to a dedicated landing page or e-commerce site with a specific discount code to track campaign effectiveness. 

Bottom Line

Using patient data can help strengthen HME relationships and provide additional health benefits to patients, while creating a new revenue stream.

Identifying, Targeting, and Converting Key Referral Sources

HMEs must leverage business from more referral sources to remain relevant and thrive in difficult times. But how? By creating and executing a strategic growth plan, making goals, engaging your team, and defining success. 

Creating a Strategic Growth Plan

To properly create and execute a strategic growth plan, you must first have a keen understanding of your market and be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who are the largest potential referral sources in your market, and how much of their business do you receive?
  • How many total referrals for your products/services are generated in your area?
  • Who are the largest referral sources for your main competitors?
  • If you are entering a new product or geographic area, how do you plan to target your sales and marketing efforts to establish yourself in the marketplace quickly?

The answer to all of these questions can be found in data.

Step 1: Dig into the data

The first step in executing your strategic growth plan is using data from your EMR system to identify, qualify, and target key referral sources. With this data, you can:

  • Rank your referring sources by the volume of referrals you receive.
  • Make year-to-year volume comparisons among those referring sources.
  • Develop strategic engagement plans for referral sources whose volume decreases over time.

The metrics are in your EMR system, but it takes planning and analysis to turn that data into actionable intelligence for your sales team. And, your EMR provides you information about your business, but that is only one piece of the puzzle.

There is also market intelligence data available to help you better understand the competitive landscape in your markets. To succeed you must understand the competitive referral dynamics of key referral sources in your market to separate you from your competition. Once you are able to identify the highest value referral sources in your markets, you will be able to create tangible goals and drive the day-to-day operations of your sales/marketing team.

After identifying and qualifying key referral source opportunities, you’ll be able to assign key prospects to relevant sales territories, create tiers of prospects based on potential value, and develop targeted contact plans for each tier. Properly done, this process helps ensure that your team is focused on the accounts that have the greatest potential value for your business.

Step 2:  Create tiered contact plans

If you want to convert larger physician prescribing behavior, you must create tiered contact plans. Separating your prospects into defined groups based on potential value can help ensure you focus appropriate resources for each tier based on their potential value to your practice. Contact plan strategies prioritize visits, touches, personnel, and marketing to ensure your top prospects are the main focus.

Step 3: Measure your contact plans

Measurement is also important to any strategic plan. Evaluate your contact plan to ensure you are effective in the marketplace. You can do this by tracking the volume attributable to referral sources identified in your targeting plan. What are you getting from them on a monthly average over the past 12 months?

After three months of targeted engagement, review volume attributable to each targeted referral source, and see whether you’ve moved the needle. This exercise should also be done for referral sources you are not currently working with; did you find new business?

Bottom Line

Whether you use your own internal data or acquire market intelligence data from a third party, data is here to stay and is a necessary tool to reach your goals. Engaging key referral sources and increasing your brand awareness is more important than ever.


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